Published on March 7, 2014
12140_Sandler_ffirs.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page i 101 Small Business Ideas for Under $5,000 Corey Sandler Janice Keefe John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
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12140_Sandler_ffirs.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page i 101 Small Business Ideas for Under $5,000 Corey Sandler Janice Keefe John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
12140_Sandler_ffirs.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page ii This book is printed on acid-free paper. ● ∞ Copyright © 2005 by Word Association, Inc. All rights reserved. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey. Published simultaneously in Canada. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, scanning, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 of the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without either the prior written permission of the Publisher, or authorization through payment of the appropriate per-copy fee to the Copyright Clearance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923, (978) 750-8400, fax (978) 646-8600, or on the web at www.copyright.com. Requests to the Publisher for permission should be addressed to the Permissions Department, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 111 River Street, Hoboken, NJ 07030, (201) 748-6011, fax (201) 748-6008. Limit of Liability/Disclaimer of Warranty: While the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparing this book, they make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this book and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose. No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives or written sales materials. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation. The publisher is not engaged in rendering professional services, and you should consult a professional where appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. For general information on our other products and services please contact our Customer Care Department within the United States at (800) 762-2974, outside the United States at (317) 572-3993 or fax (317) 572-4002. Wiley also publishes its books in a variety of electronic formats. Some content that appears in print may not be available in electronic books. For more information about Wiley products, visit our web site at www.Wiley.com. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Sandler, Corey, 1950– 101 small business ideas for under $5000 / Corey Sandler, Janice Keefe. p. cm. Includes index. ISBN 0-471-69287-5 (pbk.) 1. New business enterprises. 2. Home-based businesses. 3. Small business. I. Title: Small business ideas for under $5000. II. Title: One hundred one small business ideas for under $5000. III. Title: One hundred and one small business ideas for under $5000. IV. Keefe, Janice. V. Title. HD62.5.S272 2005 658.1'141—dc22 Printed in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 2004059648
12140_Sandler_ffirs.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page iii To William Sandler, about to embark on the first of what may be 101 jobs in his career. Here’s hoping every one of them is a success.
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12140_Sandler_ftoc.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page v Contents Preface ix Acknowledgments xi How to Use This Book xiii Chapter 1 Business Insurance and Risk Management 1 Chapter 2 Legalities and Taxes 11 Chapter 3 Setting Your Price 17 Chapter 4 Financing a Small Business 25 Chapter 5 Home Services (Exterior) 1 Lawn Mowing Service 2 Snow Removal 3 Garden Tilling 4 Window Cleaning 5 Deck Cleaning 6 Landscape Designer 7 Deck Construction 8 Storage Sheds, Playhouses, Doghouses 9 Children’s Outdoor Playset Installer 10 Low-Voltage Outdoor Electrical Wiring 11 Stonemason and Decorative Brick Worker 29 Chapter 6 Home Services (Interior) 12 Housecleaning 13 Rug Cleaner 14 Interior Decorator 15 Upholstery and Slipcover Maker 16 Wallpaper Hanger 17 Specialty Indoor Painting 18 Furniture Stripping 19 Furniture Repair 59
12140_Sandler_ftoc.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page vi vi CONTENTS 20 21 22 23 Closet Organizer Bookcase and Shelf Builder Indoor Plant Care Custom Silk and Dried Flower Arrangements Chapter 7 Home Services (Specialty) 24 Handyperson 25 Errand Runner 26 Vacation Home Caretaker 27 Vacation House Watcher 28 House Painting 29 Chimney Cleaning 30 Pool Service 31 Firewood Delivery 32 On-demand Trash Removal 33 Christmas Tree Service 34 Small Engine Repair Chapter 8 Parties, Entertainment, and Special Events 35 Party Planner 36 Children’s Event Organizer 37 Party and Special-Event Rentals 38 Catering 39 Visiting Chef 40 Specialty Cake Baker 41 Prepared Custom-Meal Service 42 Freelance Bartender 43 Entertainer 44 Holiday Decoration Service 119 Chapter 9 Personal Services 45 Personal Shopper 46 Personalized Gift Basket Maker 47 Travel Planner 48 Historical Tours 49 Personal Fitness Trainer 50 Sports Trainer 149 Chapter 10 Children, Family, and Pet Services 51 Babysitting 52 Babysitting Agency 89 165
12140_Sandler_ftoc.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page vii CONTENTS 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 vii Children’s Night Out Vacation Child Care Dog Walking and Vacation Pet Visits Pet Sitter and Doggie Day Care Elder Companion Elder Care Consultant Genealogical Research Family Biographer Chapter 11 Educational Services 61 Tutoring 62 Language Instructor 63 Music Teacher 64 Computer Instructor 65 SAT or ACT College Test Preparation 66 College Selection Advisor 67 College Application Consultant 68 Instructor at Community School Chapter 12 Arts, Crafts, Jewelry, Clothing, and Musical Instruments 69 Alterations 70 Custom Tailoring 71 Custom Knitting, Sweater, and Afghan Design 72 Custom Quiltmaker 73 Jewelry Making 74 Portraiture from Photographs 75 Custom-Built Dollhouses 76 Musical Instrument Tuning and Repair 195 217 Chapter 13 Transportation, Delivery, and Auto Services 77 Car Service 78 Independent Delivery Contractor 79 Auto Detailing 237 Chapter 14 Computers, Graphics, and Photography 80 Computer Buying Consultant 81 Computer Repair and Upgrade 82 Web Design and Maintenance 83 Graphic Designer 84 Freelance Photographer 247
12140_Sandler_ftoc.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page viii viii CONTENTS 85 Film to Digital Scanning 86 Photo and Document Restorer 87 Videographer Chapter 15 Office and Professional Services 271 88 Temporary Secretary 89 Transcription Services 90 Temporary Worker at Conventions and Business Meetings 91 Bookkeeping 92 Billing Service 93 Resume Design 94 Letter Writing Chapter 16 Sales 95 Yard Sale Organizer 96 Consignment Resale 97 Antiques and Collectibles Wholesaler 98 Used Book Reseller 99 Tool and Equipment Rentals 100 Newspaper Delivery Route 101 Online Auctions: EBay and Beyond Appendix Index Government and Private Resources for Small Businesses 287 309 313
12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page ix Preface Every business—from neighborhood to global—begins with an idea. The next General Motors or Wal-Mart or Microsoft will not spring forth fully developed from the back of an envelope. Big ideas need big funding. But your next job, or your next source of supplemental income, can begin with a small idea and grow from there. The two keys to success in small business are these: 1. Find something that makes good use of your skills and experience. 2. Market that idea to people and businesses that need your product. In 101 Small Business Ideas for under $5000, you’ll find a realistic guide to turning your ideas and skills into a business that you can run part-time or fulltime or even as an absentee owner. Some of the other books about starting a small business are little more than a laundry list of job ideas, some practical, some ridiculously fanciful. There may be millions to be made in recycling toxic waste, but it’s not realistic to consider setting up a processing plant in your backyard pool. You may be able to earn a nice income running a dog-walking business, but you do need to give serious thought to things like liability, health codes, and personal safety. Some jobs, such as babysitting or vacation house watch service, are simple to set up and run, and we discuss those and show you how to keep it simple and beneath the radar. Other jobs very quickly become more complex. For these, we discuss the real-world issues an entrepreneur will face: • Start-up costs • Legal matters • Accounting and tax issues • Liability insurance • Zoning
12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page x x PREFACE We help you draw up a sensible business plan that can be used to direct the start-up; to present to a banker, government agency, or foundation for funding; or to help design a publicity, marketing, and sales program. We give suggestions on how a successful business can be scaled up from a one-person start-up to a mini-empire. Icons help you quickly identify the type of business, required skills, estimated start-up costs, and an indication of legal, zoning, and insurance requirements. Most of the jobs can be set up for just a few hundred to a few thousand dollars; for the more expensive start-ups, we show ways to ease into full operation one step at a time.
12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page xi Acknowledgments A book is a piece of business that begins with an idea, followed by months of hard work. In the case of the book you hold in your hand, the idea originated with editor Michael Hamilton of John Wiley & Sons, in conjunction with trusted agent Gene Brissie. Though this finished book bears just two names on the cover, dozens of capable and creative people were involved in its conceptualization, design, production, and distribution. We’d like to thank the capable editors and production staff at John Wiley and North Market Street Graphics, including Linda Witzling, Christine Furry, Lainey Harding, Mary Jo Fostina, and Tracy Pitz. We also thank you, the reader, for buying this book. We wish you great success in starting your own small business and expanding it as far and wide as you can dream. Corey Sandler and Janice Keefe
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12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page xiii How to Use This Book Various levels of professional assistance will be required in setting up your small business. We have tried to make it easy for you to zero in on some of the major issues you may confront and who can best help to solve them. Following is an explanation of the visual devices used in this book for quick reference. When to Seek Professional Advice ➀ Legal ➁ Legal ➂ Legal ➃ Accounting ➄ Insurance ➅ Insurance ➀ Legal Consult an attorney for assistance in drawing up a contract that spells out the duties you will perform, the type and quality of materials you will use, the compensation you will receive for your work, and the schedule for payment. The contract should also identify any safety and security responsibilities of the client, and limit your liability for accidents, errors, and omissions. ➁ Legal If you will be entering a client’s property, home, or office while they are there, or if you will be given a key, alarm code, or permission to enter a client’s property, home, or place of business, the contract should include specific language limiting your liability for any incident that might be related to your access.
12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page xiv xiv HOW TO USE THIS BOOK ➂ Legal Your attorney should also be able to advise about the need for a business license, permits, or any special conditions, including noise ordinances, health codes, limitations on signs, and zoning concerns, including off-street parking for homebased businesses. Certain businesses also have to meet state and federal occupational safety regulations. ➃ Accounting Seek advice from an accountant about the form of business, tax reporting requirements, and an acceptable accounting system to keep track of expenses, income, and profits. The accountant should also be able to advise about special requirements for setting up business bank accounts. ➄ Insurance Discuss with an insurance agent the possible need for a business owner’s policy, separate liability insurance, and the need for commercial licensing and insurance for any vehicles that might be used. Depending on your state and the nature of your business, you may need workers’ compensation coverage for yourself; if you have any employees, laws generally require such coverage for them. Some commercial clients may require outside contractors to supply evidence of workers’ compensation coverage before they will permit you to perform work on their premises. ➅ Insurance If you will be working with valuable possessions, including collectibles and antiques, make sure your insurance coverage protects you in the event of damage or loss, or that the owners have proper coverage that protects items on and off their property. There can be a huge difference between the actual value of an item (which takes into account depreciation) and the guaranteed replacement value (which is the cost to buy an equivalent substitute). In the case of antiques and collectibles, an insurance company may insist on an independent appraisal to determine an item’s value.
12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page xv HOW TO USE THIS BOOK Informational Icons Used Categories Service Product Trade (skilled trade or craft) Creative (artistic or creative skills) Virtual company Challenges Seasonal Liability (exposes business to liability) Hazardous (dangerous to the business operator) Children (involves working with children) Pets (involves working with pets) Skills Technical Computer Training or certification Food Complexity Tools and equipment (requires specialized tools and equipment) Licenses or Permits (requires licenses, permits) Helper (requires helper) Web and phone sales Handicapped or homebound (can be conducted by physically challenged) xv
12140_Sandler_flast.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:54 PM Page xvi xvi HOW TO USE THIS BOOK Capital Expenditures (not including vehicle or rental space) $0 to $1,000 $1,001 to $3,000 $3,001 to $5,000
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 1 CHAPTER 1 Business Insurance and Risk Management nce you’ve let your mind run rampant with dreams of profits, fun, and more profits, take a moment and ask yourself this question: What could possibly go wrong? Let us suggest a few moments of doom and gloom: O • One of your clients, or perhaps a delivery person, trips and falls over the crack in the driveway you’ve been meaning to fix for the past three years. • You somehow manage to lose the only copy of a precious family photograph that was entrusted to you to restore. • You fail to advise a client of a critical deadline in filing a college application, causing her to be rejected for admission. • A slip of a chisel cracks and destroys a priceless antique chair you’ve been asked to refinish. • When you clean a chimney you overlook a wobbly interior brick that falls into the flue weeks later, resulting in a smoky blaze that destroys the house. • A product that you sell, even if you did not make it yourself or perform any alterations on it, fails and causes damage to a person or property.
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 2 2 BUSINESS INSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT There’s a lot more to say than “oops” when you run a business. An accident, error, omission, or a negligent act by you or anyone in your employ could ruin your business and even result in a claim against your personal assets. The severity of the threat could depend on: • The way your business is set up • The amount (or lack) of insurance you have • The care with which the contract with the customer is drawn That’s why we recommend you consult at least two commercial insurance agents for a risk assessment. Listen to the advice you are offered; ask lots of questions. Don’t be shy about requesting time: If agents don’t offer you good service before they’ve cashed your check, what makes you think they’ll be any better once you’re a client? We suggest you meet with more than one agent, at competitive companies. You may find one easier to understand or work with than another, or you might find a better deal. Don’t hide the fact that you are shopping around. The smartest entrepreneurs are those who buy goods and services instead of being sold goods and services. And the best businesspeople are those who realize that they have to offer real value to their customers in the form of price, service, or both. Do the same when you seek a civil attorney who can help you protect yourself with limits of liability in your contracts and the form of your business. Ask for an introductory meeting with at least two lawyers. (In most instances, a short preliminary session is offered without charge.) Ask for advice and for an estimate of costs for specific services. Business Insurance Basics Everything we do involves some amount of risk. Some risks are relatively minor: You could lose or break an inexpensive item; you could put a minor dent in the bumper of your car by hitting the trash can in your own garage; you could trip and fall in the driveway and skin a knee. In these minor accidents, you have no one to blame but yourself, and you are willing to shrug them off as ordinary events of life. Now consider the following risks: You could lose or break an expensive musical instrument entrusted to you for repairing; you could have an accident
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 3 HOW SMALL IS TOO SMALL ? 3 with your car while driving someone to the airport as part of your car service business; the FedEx delivery person could trip and fall in your driveway and break a leg. In each of these incidents, you and your small business—no matter how undersized—are liable to be sued for damages, sometimes for huge amounts of money. You also face the risk of loss due to theft of your equipment and supplies. Your business could be damaged by fire, flood, loss of heating, and other unforeseen events. Liability does not stop with obvious things like accidents. If you are operating a business, you face liability for injuries and losses caused by your services and products and for errors and omissions or negligence in advisory and consultative services. How Small Is Too Small? When we were kids, we gave no thought to lawsuits, liability, and insurance when we took jobs babysitting for the neighbors, mowing lawns, clearing snow, or selling cookies and bread at ball games. We would be remiss if we did not warn any reader of this book that we live in a litigious world. We’d like to think that any of the jobs we include in this book can be performed without risk to our readers or their customers, but that’s simply not true. We’re not lawyers, and we’re not insurance agents. We recommend that at the very least anyone planning to start a business find a capable and honest insurance agent and have a meeting to discuss a reasonable level of coverage for a small business. You may find that the job you have in mind—at least in its small, early stages—is protected by personal coverage you already have for your home or vehicle. Or you may find that the agent has serious concerns about your exposure to risk and recommends purchase of a new policy to protect you. It becomes a cost of doing business. What is the price for a basic insurance policy? There is no simple answer to that question, because insurance companies rate applicants based on the type of business and their experience in paying claims. Rates also differ depending on geographic region, and within regions on whether the work takes place in an urban or a rural setting. In the broadest terms, we estimate that a basic business owner’s policy for an occupation that is not particularly hazardous would cost somewhere between
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 4 4 BUSINESS INSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT $250 and $1,000 per year. You may also need to obtain coverage for inventory and for a vehicle used for commercial purposes. In the worst case, you may find that the insurance costs will be so high that it makes your business plan unrealistic. In that situation, you should look for ways to reduce the risk and the cost, or find a different small business to start. Who Goes There? Liability for Home-Based Businesses Let’s think about the types of people who might enter your home or place of business (which may be in your home, or elsewhere). Invitees are those who enter with your permission and for the purposes of your business or otherwise for your benefit. Included in this group would be those making deliveries, pickups, garbage collections, and providing service or maintenance. You need to make a reasonable effort to be on the lookout for dangerous conditions and post warnings about them. Licensees are those who enter with your permission but for their own purposes. For example, licensees include a government inspector, a member of the police or fire department, or a utility worker permitted to gain access because of an easement. In general, your obligation to a licensee is to make them aware of any dangerous conditions: Post a sign warning of slippery floors; install a proper railing on stairs; keep gates to hazardous areas closed. Trespassers are those who enter without your permission. In general, you do not have any legal responsibility to a trespasser, although there are situations, including those called attractive nuisances, where you may have some liability even to those who break into your property or otherwise enter without your consent. For example, in most localities you have to take reasonable steps to prevent easy break-in to a swimming pool, to keep a cute but ferocious dog fenced in, or to protect unwanted visitors from getting close to dangerous power tools and other equipment. Consult an attorney and your insurance agent to help assess risks in this area. Be sure to consult with your insurance agent and attorney about any state or local laws or regulations that would affect your area, and ask about any particular liabilities associated with your type of business. Your homeowner’s or business insurance should protect against personal injuries. Your attorney can advise you in setting up a form of business that shields your personal assets from most lawsuits and liability, shifting responsibility to your business.
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 5 ASSESSING YOUR RISKS 5 Assessing Your Risks Advisors recommend that business owners include a careful assessment of risks faced by an enterprise, no matter how small. Risk management starts with identifying various exposures to risk and then deciding on the best way to deal with each of them. With each exposure to risk, determine how serious it would be, and whether the loss is one that you could afford to bear or whether you need to find a way to offset that risk in some way. One of the first things you should do as you draw up your business plan is to make contact with a capable and well-informed commercial insurance agent. Shop around to find an agent who is able to communicate with you and (this is hardest to find) willing to put your interests above all, even above his or her sales commission. Ask friends, family, and business acquaintances for recommendations. One way to deal with the possibility of risk is to mount an active campaign to reduce exposure. For example, you might choose not to accept very valuable items for repair unless the owner relieves you of liability or pays for special insurance coverage. You might choose not to sell particular products because of an increased likelihood of liability: for example, trampolines, diving boards, and weapons. You might choose to insist on replacing broken parts with new ones instead of making repairs, because new parts have higher reliability. You might choose to accept a babysitting job but refuse to transport children to or from school or other activities. Some insurance companies will provide free or low-cost consulting services to their clients to help them reduce exposure to loss, something that benefits both the policyholder and the issuer. Another option is risk retention or self-insurance. A business might decide it can accept occasional losses as part of the ordinary cost of doing business and build the expense into prices. A garden nursery cannot expect to collect for the loss of a few plants because of an unexpected freeze; the selling price for healthy plants includes an allowance to cover previous or anticipated losses. This is the sort of decision we might make for our personal automobile: If it is more than a few years old and has declined in value, it might make sense to eliminate collision coverage and reduce the value of the replacement cost. (At the same time, you would not want to skimp on liability coverage to protect you from claims for damage to others or to their property.
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 6 6 BUSINESS INSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT The third option is to transfer the risk. This can be done by purchasing insurance for your company, or you may be able to find ways to have others assume risks as part of your business relationship with them. One way you could transfer risk would be to hire an independent trucking company to make pickups and deliveries for your company. We discuss various types of insurance you can purchase later in this chapter. Understanding Insurable Risks What, exactly, are you protecting against when you purchase a business policy? Typical named risks include the following. Physical Damage Losses due to fire, storm damage, vandalism, broken pipes, failed heating systems, and other incidents may be insured against. You could lose finished goods, raw materials, tools, and other elements of your business. The loss could also occur to your clients’ property that has been deposited with you for repair, maintenance, or processing. If your business is operated in a room of your home, it may be possible to add a rider or extension to your homeowner’s or renter’s policy to cover a small business. Criminal Activity You could lose property, your own or items belonging to customers, due to theft or robbery. If you will be working with valuable items such as jewelry or works of art, make sure you are fully covered. Liability A business or its owner may be required to pay for bodily injury or destruction of property suffered by others. The payment may be required as the result of a court ruling in a legal case, an out-of-court settlement of a lawsuit, or as an element of a contract that makes you or your company responsible for certain types of losses. Liability insurance usually includes the costs of defending you against a lawsuit for a claim that is covered under the policy. A company can also be required by law to assume liability for certain occurrences such as injuries that fall under workers’ compensation coverage.
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 7 TYPES OF INSURANCE COVERAGE 7 Public liability refers to injuries or losses by customers, visitors, and others who are not employees. The liability is incurred as the result of provable negligence or fault. The exposure here would include an injury due to broken pavement, a slippery floor, improper installation or repair of a product provided to a customer, or a new product that is defective. If you rent a home, office, or place of business, your lease may transfer liability for injury from the owner of the property to the renter; consult an attorney to be sure of your responsibility. Liability to employees generally falls under workers’ compensation laws, which vary from state to state. In some states, not all types of businesses are required to have such policies, and in some localities, the owner of a one-person business is exempt from the requirement to have such a policy. Again, consult with a capable insurance agent to find out the laws that apply in your area. If you will be starting and running a small business that will take you into the offices and workplaces of other companies, you may find that their insurance carriers require that anyone doing business with them show evidence of a current workers’ compensation policy. Business Interruption An element of business packages is coverage to help you get past a shutdown of your business due to a direct loss (one that is covered by other elements of your policy). For example, if your office or workshop is damaged by fire, you could collect the current or replacement value of the items and receive some payment for income you lose while the business is unable to operate. The money could help pay for taxes, loans, utilities, and other fixed costs that don’t stop even when your business does. Disability or Death of Owner or Key Person What if your business is entirely dependent on the health and involvement of a single person: an expert, an artisan, or a salesperson? If that person were to die or become incapacitated, the business might grind to a halt. Some policies in this area amount to specialized life insurance, with the business or the business owner listed as beneficiary. Types of Insurance Coverage The insurance industry packages named risks into classes of policies intended to cover various forms of business or business activities.
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 8 8 BUSINESS INSURANCE AND RISK MANAGEMENT Commercial General Liability The basic form of business liability coverage protects (up to policy limits) against damage or loss to property, bodily injury, personal injury (including slander or libel), and advertising injury and related claims. A good policy also extends to other liabilities, including protection for damages and legal expenses related to an injury caused by a product or service provided by your company, other kinds of product liability, and liability for certain risks you may assume under a contract. Property Coverage This sort of policy offers protection against loss or damage to your business property as the result of fire, theft, and certain other situations. (Some policies exclude or limit loss due to floods, windstorms, and other risks.) Depending on the nature of your business, you may need to extend coverage to protect against loss of property owned by customers and to insure against loss of valuable papers, records, and data stored on computer media. For most companies, the best type of coverage offers to pay for lost property at replacement value rather than at its generally lower (depreciated) actual value. With the assistance of your insurance agent, make a realistic appraisal of the cost you would face if all of your business equipment, inventory, and vehicles, or the structures that hold them, were lost. If you have $250,000 in potential losses, you should have coverage that comes very close to that amount; one way to reduce your insurance premium is to accept a small amount of the risk yourself by choosing a policy with a higher deductible that is still within your ability to absorb. There is, however, no reason to pay for a coverage limit that is higher than the amount you could collect in the event of a loss. Business Owner’s Policy (BOP) This insurance package brings together general liability and property coverage in a single policy that usually costs less than individual plans; BOP is generally offered to small and medium-sized businesses that do not have extraordinary exposure to loss. This sort of policy does not ordinarily protect against errors, omissions, or negligence; a more inclusive professional liability policy should be considered if your business is exposed to those sorts of risks.
12140_Sandler_01.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:38 PM Page 9 TYPES OF INSURANCE COVERAGE 9 Professional Liability Insurance for Errors and Omissions For professional businesses, including consultancies, accounting, and advisory services, this is somewhat like malpractice insurance. This coverage protects against claims for errors or omissions in your work and for negligence. Umbrella Coverage and Excess Liability One way to save money on insurance costs is to extend your overall coverage level by purchasing an umbrella policy. These policies are secondary to basic coverage, adding more available funds after other policies have reached their payout limit. Business Auto Insurance If your company owns, leases, or rents vehicles, or if any employees use their own vehicles for business purposes, this sort of policy will protect against liability claims for injury to others or damage to other vehicles and property. The policy can also include collision and comprehensive coverage to pay for damage to your own vehicles and for protection against theft of personal contents.
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12140_Sandler_02.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:39 PM Page 11 CHAPTER 2 Legalities and Taxes s we said in the introduction to this book, every business begins with an idea. Once that business begins to spend and, more important, earn money, it becomes an entity that is of interest to local, state, and federal authorities. Regulators will want to regulate, inspectors will want to inspect, and tax agencies will absolutely insist on collecting taxes. Many of the jobs we write about in this book can begin on the most casual basis, as a sole proprietorship or a general partnership. In these sorts of businesses, the owners put their own money into the operation and pay taxes on their personal income. We can also hope that our little idea for a business will one day grow into a larger enterprise with multiple employees, assets of its own, and a long and profitable life. In this chapter, we examine the most common structures for businesses. A Form of Business If you hang up a shingle that says “Paul Revere, Silversmith” (and your name is Paul Revere), you can set up a sole proprietorship and run your business out of your personal checkbook. In some states and localities, you must register the
12140_Sandler_02.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:39 PM Page 12 12 LEGALITIES AND TAXES business name with the county where you will conduct business. In addition, banking laws generally require a business certificate to enable you to deposit checks made out to “Paul Revere, Silversmith” into an account, although checks to “Paul Revere” would probably be accepted. If your birth certificate actually reads “Paul Hickenlooper” (to pick a name at random), and you want to call your company “Paul Revere, Silversmith,” you will need to file a doing-business-as (DBA) or fictitious name form in most jurisdictions. There are advantages to each of the various forms of business, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and corporations, that might argue for one or another, depending on the nature of your enterprise. State and federal laws differ with regard to certain requirements for various business structures: for example, whether a business needs to have workers’ compensation insurance, the deductibility of certain expenses, and the filing of tax and information returns. Be sure to discuss available forms of business with an accountant and attorney. Here is a general description of common options; please don’t confuse this section with legal or tax accounting advice. Sole Proprietorship This is a business that is owned and controlled by an individual, with all of the profits directed to the owner. In many localities the company must obtain a business license from local government; additional licenses and permits may be required for certain types of businesses. This is the simplest and least expensive form of business to set up, and the owner does not have to answer to anyone else about operations. The most significant disadvantage of a sole proprietorship is that the company and its owner are linked when it comes to financial responsibility, liability, and taxes. If the business is unable to pay its bills, creditors can seek to collect from the owner’s personal assets. When it comes to taxes, income from the business is treated as personal income of the owner. It may also be more difficult to obtain bank loans and other types of financing for a sole proprietorship because of the limited resources of the single owner and because the business’s success is entirely dependent on one person. General Partnership This is a business that is owned and controlled by two or more people, sharing in the investment, management, and profits of the company. There should be a
12140_Sandler_02.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:39 PM Page 13 FORM OF BUSINESS 13 written agreement signed by the partners, spelling out investment obligations, management expectations, and the distribution of profits. A general partnership has the advantage of additional sources of capital and labor, but it does not relieve the partners of personal responsibility for debts and other liabilities. Since the general partnership is not a separate business entity, salaries, profits, and losses are reported as personal income by each partner. Limited Partnership This form of business is owned and controlled by two or more people, who share in the investment and profits of the company, but who give operational control of the business to a general partner or partners. A limited partnership is a step toward a corporation. Though the partnership is not a business entity of its own, the agreement among the owners can limit responsibility for debts and liabilities to the general partner. The limited partners, who do not exercise control over operations, are personally liable only up to the amount of their investment in the company. Setting up a limited partnership is more complex than forming a general partnership and should involve a lawyer to draft the agreements. Corporation After receiving a charter from the state where it is headquartered, a corporation becomes a legal entity that exists independently of the people who invest in it, manage it, and share in its profits. The corporation, owned by its shareholders, can raise funds through the sale of additional stock; depending on the type of stock sold, shareholders may receive partial, majority, or total control over operations. Although it is possible to set up a corporation without the involvement of an attorney using do-it-yourself kits and Internet sites, you may benefit from the advice of an attorney, and you’ll want to coordinate your efforts with your accountant, in any case. The principal advantage of a corporation is that its owners (the shareholders) are personally liable only up to the amount they have invested in the corporation. When it comes to taxes, the corporation reports its own income, expenses, and profits to state and federal authorities and pays its own taxes and fees. Dividends paid to shareholders are generally not deductible from business income, and therefore this income is subject to taxes at both the corporate and personal levels.
12140_Sandler_02.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:39 PM Page 14 14 LEGALITIES AND TAXES Subchapter S Corporation A Subchapter S corporation passes through the income or loss to the shareholders, as a partnership would (the corporation does not pay taxes on the profit) and provides the liability protection of a corporation. As an employee of a corporation, you will report salary as personal income on your personal tax forms. Limited Liability Corporation As a legal entity that is permitted in most states, an LLC combines some of the tax benefits of a partnership with the limits on liability of a corporation. A lawyer’s advice is generally needed for the drafting of agreements among the owners. On the tax front, shareholders report their portion of the company’s profit or loss on their personal tax forms. Business Licenses Check with city or county clerks or your attorney to see if you require a local or state business license. Some states require licenses for almost every form of business, while others are more selective. Among businesses that often require licenses are trades, such as electricians, plumbers, construction, mining, forestry, and professions, including health care, financial services, entertainment, and food preparation and sale. In some states, businesses operated from a home do not require a license, or they may face less stringent criteria. Sales Tax on Services and Products As of 2004, 45 states and the District of Columbia levied sales tax on most products and some services. Some states exempt food and certain services and products from tax. Contact your state department of revenue for details about requirements for your business; your accountant should also be able to advise you. If you are required to assess sales tax, you will have to register with the state and set up an account for regular deposit of taxes you have collected. In many states, you can obtain an exemption from having to pay or collect sales taxes if
12140_Sandler_02.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:39 PM Page 15 ZONING ISSUES 15 you are buying products or raw materials and then reselling them to a retailer. Again, your accountant should be able to help you set up your tax status. Zoning Issues In many parts of the country, zoning laws and regulations place limits on the types of businesses that can be established and operated in particular areas. You may be completely barred from opening a business in a residential area or other noncommercial zone, or you may face regulations requiring off-street parking, limits on hours of operation, or other strictures. Consult an attorney for advice.
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12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 17 CHAPTER 3 Setting Your Price or many businesses, the most difficult question of all is this: How do you set a price for your goods or services? At its simplest level, you need to set your prices at a level high enough to allow you to make a profit. That means higher than the cost of materials, supplies, rent, utilities, insurance, legal fees, and accounting costs. Include the cost of breakage, spoilage, or loss. Then add in a margin high enough to pay yourself (and your staff) a living wage. On one hand, if you set your prices too high, you will receive a higher profit, but your cash flow may be lower because you could lose some business to others. On the other hand, as salespeople like to say, if you price your product or service too low, you are leaving too much money on the table. Let’s begin by differentiating between cost and price: F • Cost is the total amount of money you need to pay for manufacturing or purchasing a product or service and offering it for sale. Included in the expenses are fixed and variable costs. • Price is the amount of money you ask a customer or client to pay for a product or service.
12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 18 18 SETTING YOUR PRICE Analyzing Your Costs for Product Sales Begin by conducting a very detailed analysis of all of your fixed and variable costs. A fixed cost is one that does not change no matter how many widgets you sell or services you provide; this is often referred to as overhead. For example, if you must rent an office, the monthly payment is a fixed cost of doing business. So, too, is the cost of any basic tools and equipment you must purchase or rent, most insurance, and basic utilities. Most businesses are born on the back of an envelope, or at best on a yellow legal pad. There are, though, some very useful computer tools you can use to help with your planning. One is Business Plan Pro, from Palo Alto Software (www.paloalto.com) and we have included a few sample screens in this chapter. If you have any employees, they are a fixed cost if they are on salary and being paid whether or not they sell or perform services successfully. Business Plan Pro; © 2004 Palo Alto Software, Inc. (www.paloalto.com), reproduced with permission.
12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 19 ANALYZING YOUR COSTS FOR PRODUCT SALES 19 A variable cost is one that is directly related to sales; it can also be referred to as the incremental cost per unit. For example, if you are handcrafting cuckoo clocks, the amount of money you spend on parts and supplies varies based on the number of clocks you put together each month. If you hire and pay workers on an hourly basis, their cost varies with production or services. As an example, if you must purchase $50 worth of materials and spend one hour of time that you value at $50 to assemble a clock, the incremental cost of that clock is $100. It is essential that you have a realistic accounting of your fixed costs (overhead) and your variable costs (incremental cost per unit) before you can determine your break-even point and build in a profit. Let’s use a simple example with the following two assumptions: 1. The fixed costs of your business, including office rent, equipment, insurance, and utilities, works out to a monthly expense of $1,000. 2. The variable cost for the one model of cuckoo clock you are building, including materials and labor, is $100. Business Plan Pro; © 2004 Palo Alto Software, Inc. (www.paloalto.com), reproduced with permission.
12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 20 20 SETTING YOUR PRICE Therefore, if you expect to sell only one clock per month, your break-even point is $1,100. Put another way, you’ll need to sell that single clock for at least $1,100 or you will lose money on your business. Let’s say you expect to sell 20 clocks per month. Your fixed costs are still $1,000, but your variable costs now total $2,000 ($100 in materials times 20 units.) To break even, you’ll need to sell those 20 clocks for an average of $150 each to generate a total of $3,000 for fixed and variable costs. If you can sell 200 clocks per month, fixed costs remain $1,000, and variable costs reach $20,000; the break-even price for those 200 clocks would have to average $105 each to generate $21,000. Adding a Markup for Profit The cuckoo clock example works well because it has the advantage of being based on a single product sold at a specific price. Things become much more complex if you are selling a range of products at varying prices. Business Plan Pro; © 2004 Palo Alto Software, Inc. (www.paloalto.com), reproduced with permission.
12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 21 ADDING A MARKUP FOR PROFIT 21 Here is a five-step method to go about determining prices in this situation: 1. Calculate your fixed costs, or overhead. 2. Determine the incremental cost per unit, or variable cost, for each of the various items you expect to sell. 3. Come up with a realistic estimate of the number of each of the items you expect to sell in a month. 4. Multiply the units times the incremental cost. 5. Add the total to fixed costs. The result is your break-even point. Here is an example: 1. Your fixed costs are $1,000 per month. 2. Here’s the incremental cost per unit for the five products you expect to sell: Product A $50 Product B $75 Product C $25 Product D $100 Product E $10 3. You expect to sell the following numbers of each product per month (based on annual sales divided by 12): Product A 5 units Product B 4 units Product C 10 units Product D 2 units Product E 10 units 4. Units sold times the incremental cost: Product A $ 50 × 5 = $ 250 Product B $ 75 × 4 = $ 300 Product C $ 25 × 10 = $ 250 Product D $100 × 2 = $ 200 Product E $ 10 × 10 = $1,000 TOTAL: $2,000 5. Break-even cost: Fixed costs $1,000 2,000 Variable costs TOTAL: $3,000
12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 22 22 SETTING YOUR PRICE This tells you that you need to mark up your products by an average of 50 percent to break even. (Products that cost you $2,000 to build or buy need to sell for $3,000 to include the cost of overhead.) One method of setting prices is to determine a standard markup, in the form of a percentage, and apply it to the cost of an item. For example, you might determine that your cost of goods for a cuckoo clock is $40 and your target markup percentage is 50 percent. That means its selling price would be $60. If you decide that you want your business to generate $500 in profit, you would need to apply a markup of 75 percent ($2,000 in variable costs times 1.75 equals $3,500 in receipts). To apply a markup, you can multiply the cost by the markup percentage and then add in the cost, or you can add 100 percent to the markup percentage and multiply it by the cost. The result is the same either way. In some business models, different products or services may have different markups. If one product or service costs much more to inventory, has higher breakage or spoilage, or requires much more expenditure to advertise or sell, you might apply a higher markup. On the other hand, if you are selling some highpriced items you might be willing to accept a lower percentage of profit. You may also be forced to lower the markup on certain products or services if you face strong competition for sales, or if you are seeking to build market share for a new company or a new offering. In the end, what matters is that the money you receive for the products you sell in a month, a quarter, or a year is at least equal to the total of the fixed and variable costs. Depending on your business plan, your personal resources, and your faith in your idea, you may be willing to allow a few months or even a few years to reach profitability. Analyzing Your Costs for a Service Business As a consultant or service provider, your primary commodity is your time. In general, your fixed costs will represent much or all of your expenses. Fixed costs, or overhead, for a service business include rent for an office, the cost of any basic tools and equipment, most insurance, and basic utilities. Variable costs for a service business are principally the value you place on your own time, plus incidentals such as transportation. There’s not really a markup per se for a service business. You will pay your overhead and generate profits on the basis of the hourly rate you charge.
12140_Sandler_03.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 23 ANALYZING YOUR COSTS FOR A SERVICE BUSINESS 23 Business Plan Pro; © 2004 Palo Alto Software, Inc. (www.paloalto.com), reproduced with permission. Note that a service-only business, such as tutoring or college advising, will have minimal operating expenses, although you must be careful not to overlook the cost in time of preparation for a service, including research, education, and sales of that service. For services-based companies, the markup amounts to the hourly rate you will charge. When you set your hourly rate, be sure to take into account any helpers you may be paying separately. For example, if you have someone managing your office or helping maintain equipment, that becomes an element of your cost of goods. No formula can set the value of your time; you can, though, usually find the hourly rate for others performing similar work in your area. You might choose to underprice the competition to build your business, or you may believe that your experience and skills warrant a higher hourly rate than other contenders charge. You can easily adjust your hourly rate downward in slow periods or upward when demand is high. In some small businesses, labor is a major component of the job but operating expenses and cost of goods are also a major component. For example, a lawn mowing business has fixed expenses, such as the cost of machinery, a vehicle, permits, licenses, and insurance, plus variable expenses, including gasoline, maintenance, labor, and taxes.
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12140_Sandler_04.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 25 CHAPTER 4 Financing a Small Business t takes money to make money; that’s a basic truism of business school. Some enterprises require a lot more cash than others: A car dealership may need millions of dollars to build a showroom and fund an inventory of vehicles to sell. Even a neighborhood snow removal service or lawn mowing enterprise (two of the small businesses we discuss in this book) needs to spend some cash to purchase equipment and supplies and transport them from client to client. Many of the jobs discussed in this book can be started with minimal investment. However, if you hope to expand to include multiple locations, numerous employees, and more ambitious services, it will be essential that you have enough ready capital for investment. The sources and uses of that money have to be as carefully managed as the rest of the business. If you will be using your own resources, you should be sure your business and its underlying plan is sound. I Computer partner. Depending on the complexity of your business, you may want to enlist the assistance of a computer business planner. Among the best is Business Plan Pro, from Palo Alto Software. You can learn about that product at www.paloalto.com.
12140_Sandler_04.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 26 26 FINANCING A SMALL BUSINESS If you will be using someone else’s money—a bank, an investor, or a government agency—you’ll need to be just as sure of your plan and fully understand the risks of borrowing. The two basic types of financing are equity and debt. Equity versus Debt Equity financing is an investment in the ownership of the company. Equity can come from your own resources, from family, friends, employees, and customers, or from outside investors, including venture capitalists who seek to buy into businesses that have the potential for growth. Equity investors are generally given a portion of ownership (and control) of the company; looking at it from the point of view of the founder, accepting equity financing from others reduces the percentage of the company that you own and control. Debt financing is a loan, a liability to the company (and, depending on the form of the business, also to the owner). Sources include banks, commercial lenders, and government agencies, including the U.S. Small Business Administration. Loans can be used for ongoing operations, for the purchase of equipment, and for short-term uses such as inventory. Outside investors will usually be very interested in determining and assessing your company’s debt-to-equity ratio. That formula compares the money you have borrowed, or plan to borrow, to the amount of your own money you have invested in the business. The more money the owner and partners or shareholders have put into the business, the more comfortable an outside lender is likely to be with a request for a loan. Think of the parallel in buying a home. Most lenders are much more willing to issue a mortgage to a borrower who puts a substantial down payment into the home. The theory is that an owner who is risking some of his or her own money is a more dedicated and trustworthy borrower than someone who is working entirely with other people’s money. Types of Loans A line of credit is somewhat like a personal credit card: The lender disburses funds as they are requested, up to a preset limit. The borrower pays interest (and
12140_Sandler_04.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 27 COLLATERAL FOR LOANS 27 usually a portion of the outstanding balance) on the amount of funds outstanding at the end of each borrowing period, usually monthly. An installment loan gives the borrower a lump sum of money and sets a schedule for regular payments over a set period of time for repayment. A short-term loan is money advanced for a specific purpose: to pay for inventory, to help a company get past a cash flow problem related to accounts receivable, and so on. The loan is expected to be repaid once the immediate need has been resolved. A long-term loan is aimed at capital spending, including equipment and real estate, and is intended to be repaid from the ongoing proceeds of the company. Collateral for Loans From the point of view of the lender, the riskiest type of loan is one that is unsecured: The borrower merely promises to repay it. A personal credit card is an unsecured loan, and it generally bears a higher interest rate than is charged for a secured note. Lenders would rather tie their loans to an interest in something tangible, a secured note. For example, if you purchase an automobile, the lender technically owns the vehicle until the loan is paid off; in the event of a default, the lender has the right to repossess the car and sell it off to regain some or all of the money it has loaned. For commercial loans, banks or other lenders might require that an individual or a company pledge or sign over title to assets to protect their interest in a loan. For example, a company could offer as collateral that portion of any real estate not encumbered by a mortgage, or it could pledge equipment, accounts receivable, and other things of value. An individual could pledge personal real estate, cash investments, and life insurance cash value or death benefits. For some personal loans, the lender may ask for another party to sign the note. An endorser is someone who agrees to pay the loan if the borrower defaults. A comaker is similar, with the distinction that the lender can collect from either the maker or the comaker. A guarantor is a third party who guarantees to repay the outstanding balance of a note if the maker defaults; the guarantor could be an officer of the corporation or company. In some situations, a government or private program may agree to guarantee the loan to assist a small business in obtaining financing.
12140_Sandler_04.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:41 PM Page 28 28 FINANCING A SMALL BUSINESS Working with the Small Business Administration The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an independent agency of the federal government. Its programs include education and direct and indirect programs to help small businesses obtain financing. For information, consult www.sba.gov, or call the district office for the agency: 800-827-5722. The SBA offers some direct loans as well as loan guarantees that allow other lenders to receive backing on some or all of the money they lend to businesses. The SBA also licenses private lenders to participate in the small business investment company (SBIC) program, a low-level form of venture capital. Among the SBA’s programs are the following: • 7 (a) loan guarantee. The SBA’s basic program offers guarantees to lenders to entice them to make loans to small businesses that might not otherwise qualify for a loan. Loans are extended for up to 10 years for working capital and for longer periods to purchase equipment and other fixed assets. • Certified development company (CDC) 504 loans. Private lenders can offer loans to acquire real estate or equipment for expansion or modernization; the loans are funded by an SBA-guaranteed note. • 7 (m) microloans. Short-term, small loans to small businesses for working capital, equipment, or inventory; the SBA lends money or guarantees loans to third parties that offer funds to enterprises. • Surety bond guarantee (SBG). This program offers completion and contract bonds for small and minority contractors. If a company is unable to fulfill a contract, the surety bond is supposed to pay for completion of the project by others.
12140_Sandler_05.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:42 PM Page 29 CHAPTER Home Services (Exterior) 1 Lawn Mowing Service 2 Snow Removal 3 Garden Tilling 4 Window Cleaning 5 Deck Cleaning 6 Landscape Designer 7 Deck Construction 8 Storage Sheds, Playhouses, Doghouses 9 Children’s Outdoor Playset Installer 10 Low-Voltage Outdoor Electrical Wiring 11 Stonemason and Decorative Brick Worker 5
12140_Sandler_05.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:42 PM Page 30 30 HOME SERVICES ( EXTERIOR ) Lawn Mowing Service Description of Job • Perform basic lawn care, including lawn mowing, trimming around buildings and lawn furniture, and edging. • Conduct seasonal fertilizing and application of other lawn chemicals, including weed killer. The Need Do you have a lawn? You need to keep it trimmed. It’s not just a matter of keeping up with the Joneses; in most communities, laws and regulations require that property owners keep their land reasonably neat. Cutting the grass also helps reduce the incidence of ticks, fleas, and other unwelcome visitors in residential neighborhoods. That said, not everyone has the time, inclination, or ability to take care of their own lawn. The market for lawn mowing services includes older homeowners, persons with disabilities, and people who just don’t have the time to do it themselves. Challenges In most parts of the country, lawn mowing is a seasonal job. (In northern climes, lawns generally hibernate at least half the year, from about October through May.) You’ll need to pay off the cost of equipment during the growing season . . . and watch it gather dust over the winter. You will also likely have to pay for 12 months of insurance and licenses even if your business runs only 6 months of the year. Rain helps the grass grow, which is good news, but a particularly dismal summer could result in long periods when lawns cannot be mowed. Similarly, a drought could cause lawns to grow unusually slowly. Know the Territory Will you bring your own equipment, or use whatever you find at your client’s premises?
12140_Sandler_05.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:42 PM Page 31 LAWN MOWING SERVICE 31 Using your client’s equipment simplifies your operation in many ways: You won’t have to buy a lawn mower and other devices; you will not be responsible for maintaining it and providing gas; and you will not have to transport bulky and heavy machines from your home to your customer’s lawn. On the other hand, the equipment you find may be of poor quality or unreliable. Some homeowners won’t have lawn mowers, costing you a job. Using your own equipment should guarantee you’ll have machines you can rely on; you will, though, have to properly maintain the devices. If you bring your own equipment, you’ll need to transport the devices to your clients. If you’re working on your own street, you may be able to roll the mower down the sidewalk; anywhere more distant will probably require that you use a truck or a trailer with a ramp. Will you be responsible for removing grass clippings? Are there any local regulations regarding disposal? (A mulching lawn mower may solve this problem, if that’s okay with your client.) Investigate other local ordinances. For example, some towns may limit the hours when noisy power equipment may be used. Educate yourself on lawn chemicals, including fertilizers, weed killers, and pest control options. Take care to avoid exposure to dangerous substances. Remember, although a manufacturer may claim that a chemical is not harmful when its instructions are followed, you may be exposing yourself to repeated use of the substance as you move from one job to the next. Not all lawns are the same. If the property is hilly or irregularly shaped, it will likely require more time and effort than a flat, square property. Lawn mowing is the sort of job that can be done by one person or by a crew. A lawn that takes one person two hours to cut could be done in one hour by a crew of two. Although having a crew may allow you to cut many more lawns, you’ll also have to pay additional salaries and benefits, and you’ll need more equipment. The principal advantage to hiring a crew is that you may be able to step back from actually cutting the grass yourself and instead earn your income as the manager for your lawn mowing empire. How to Get Started Market your services before they are needed. In the best of all possible worlds, you will be able to sign up enough clients ahead of the season to justify purchase of equipment. Place ads on bulletin boards, at gardening supply stores, and in community newspapers. Ask friends and neighbors for referrals. Offer a discount or a free service for any clients they bring to you.
12140_Sandler_05.f.qxd 2/16/05 2:42 PM Page 32 32 HOME SERVICES ( EXTERIOR ) Draw up a simple but complete agreement with clients listing exactly which services you will be providing and the cost. Include in the agreement whether lawn mowing services will be provided on a regular schedule (weekly, biweekly, on a particular day of the month) or whether the client must call to schedule a visit each time. Get specific written instructions about any special conditions—a flower bed to be avoided or a section that needs to be hand-trimmed. Up-front Expenses Commercial equipment can be quite expensive; you may need to amortize the cost over an entire season, or even over more than one season. A heavy-duty machine can easily cost $1,000, reaching to $3,000 for the most powerful, widest, and most flexible devices. Investigate buying used equipment from a reliable dealer who will offer a warranty and provide service. Additional services such as edging and trimming
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